We examined the expression of co-stimulatory molecules on leukaemic cells of 52 adult patients with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) (34 men and 18 women) and analysed the relationship between these expressions and the patient's prognosis. B7-1 was not expressed in any of the 23 patients investigated, whereas B7-2 was expressed in 26/52 patients (50.0%). B7-2 was expressed in all AML patients with monocytic morphology (M4 or M5) and in 16/42 cases without monocytic morphology. CD54 was expressed in 28/ 37 patients examined (75.7%), and CD58 was expressed in all of the AML patients except one (M 7). The overall survival of the 26 B7-2-positive leukaemia patients (1-24 months, median survival 11.5 months) was significantly shorter than that of the 26 B7-2-negative leukaemia patients (1-71+ months, median 35.1 months) (P=0.0080). In addition, the B7-2-positive patients exhibited significantly shorter disease-free survival periods compared to the B7-2-negative patients (P=0.021). There was no significant difference in age, sex, haematological data and complete remission rate between the B7-2-positive and B7-2-negative patients. Our results indicated that B7-2 is one of the most crucial factors in the prognosis of adult acute leukaemia and can be expected to have an important role in tumour immunity.